In a game filled with big moments and big plays, the biggest one was an offensive rebound.
With their double-digit lead having disintegrated to just 3, Andres Nocioni came down the center of the lane and pulled down a Louis Williams miss over Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer. After hitting both foul shots, the Argentinian grabbed a defensive board on the other end to put the game on ice.
Noce played almost the entire second half after fracturing a finger on his shooting hand early on. He scored 11 points on 5 shots, hit some big foul shots late, and came down with two of the biggest rebounds of the year to unseat one of the top teams in the East, 105-99.
Before Noce took over, it was the Jodie Meeks show at the Wells Fargo Center. He hit 8 of his 11 jumpers tonight, 4 of which were taken beyond the arc, for his team high 24 points. In the preview, I said Jodie hadn't scored more than 10 points while shooting at least 50% in almost a month. Meeks went through stretches where he couldn't miss, igniting the crowd every time he rose up for a three.
Every shooter goes through games where he goes cold. What separates the expendables from the cornerstones is how quickly he shakes off the cool streak and gets back on track. It took Jodie longer than he'd like, but this game should help him right the ship. It's clear how much better the team is when he's stretching the floor. It allows the guards to penetrate and gives the big guys more room to maneuver on the block.
With the 7-seed in striking distance, his jump shot could be the difference between facing the Celtics or Heat in the first round. It also seems that, despite being six games under .500, the front office believes in this team enough to hold onto Andre Iguodala the rest of the year.
The first half didn't harbor much in the way of defense. Both teams were shooting lights out, but getting to the rim at will and giving up open looks at every turn as well. The Sixers shot 58% in the first half, only to be bested by the Bulls 62%.
The highly anticipated matchup between Derrick Rose and Jrue Holiday was as awesome as expected. Rose scored more points (27) than Holiday (19) but it took him 7 more shots to do so. The Memphis product sported a 9:4 A/TO ratio compared to Jrue's 6:6. Each of them made his share of fanastic plays and ugly ones. One time Jrue took the ball up the court, shimmied at the three-point line, then burst forward with Rose on his hip, absorbed the contact and finished with the foul. Pretty great, right? Compare that to the final minute when he dribbled out most of the shot clock before spinning out of a double team and passing blind right into the hands of Kyle Korver. Jrue's been nothing short of amazing over the past week, but it's plays like that that remind you just how young he is.
Chicago's three best players kept them in the game, scoring 80 of the team's 99 points. Carlos Boozer was all but unstoppable inside, hitting 14 of his 19 shots for 31 points and 13 rebounds. Elton Brand had a really tough time dealing with his unique combination of strength, athleticism, and positioning that's reminiscent of Brand's game about 6 years ago. Coming off a game where his coach sat him for the entire fourth quarter, Booz dominated the interior. If Joakim Noah was healthy, there would be no spare rebounds for everybody else.
Lou played as good of a game as Lou plays, scoring his points by breaking down his man and not doing much else. He ended up with a relatively efficient 20 points on 14 shots without turning the ball over. His value is especially evident with the clock winding down. He finds a way to hit miracle baskets with the shot clock running down and in the final moments of the game. Where Jrue faltered, Lou excelled, keeping the Bulls at arm's length when they tried to mount their comeback.
The 68 minutes that he and Meeks combined to play didn't leave much time for Evan Turner to see the court, even without Iguodala around. The rookie managed 15 minutes, where he was mostly invisible the whole time. Good games from Meeks and Williams don't bode well for Turner succeeding. He didn't look too great on defense either, which is why Collins stayed with Nocioni even when Luol Deng kept scoring on him. He finished with 22, but most of his production came in the first half.
- Spencer Hawes played a nice game offensively. He hit a few jumpers and a nice hook shot that managed to fall, while setting up his teammates to the tune of four assists. Defensively, he was nowhere and continues to fall victim to poor box-outs as a result of his lack of toughness inside.
- The Sixers did their best to cough up the lead at the end, due to a number of consecutive possessions where they took quick outside shots. Unless it's Meeks, nobody should be shooting three's with more than 16 seconds left on the shot clock. That being said, they did a nice job passing the ball around tonight.
- Keith Bogans played 14 minutes tonight. If you're a Bulls fan, that's 14 too many.
- Doug Collins is now 10-6 at the Wells Fargo Center.
- The Sixers didn't lose by 45.
The team travels to Detroit overnight and will face the Pistons tomorrow night. The schedule gets noticeably easier from here, with the next four opponents each sporting sub-.500 records. Good win against a good club tonight.